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The 120s decade ran from January 1, 120, to December 31, 129.
- Emperor Hadrian visits Britain.
- Foss Dyke is constructed in Britain.
- An Indian ambassadorial contingent visits with Hadrian.
- Suetonius becomes Hadrian's secretary ab epistolis.
- Approximate date
- Change of era name from Yuanchu (7th year) to Yongning of the Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty.
- The Scythians dominate western India: Punjab, Sind, the north of Gujarat and a portion of central India.
- Roman settlement in present-day Wiesbaden, Germany is first mentioned.
- Emperor Hadrian fixes the border between Roman Britain and Caledonia on a line running from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth.
- Construction of the Temple of Venus and Roma begins in Rome.
- Era name changes from Yongning (2nd year) to Jianguang in the Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty.
- Emperor Hadrian orders that a 73-mile (117-kilometer) wall be built to mark the northern Roman Empire while personally visiting the area. Hadrian's Wall, as it comes to be known, is intended to keep the Caledonians, Picts and other tribes at bay.
- Vindolanda a Roman auxiliary fort (castrum) in northern England is garrisoned by cohort VIIII Batavorum.
- September 13 – The building of Hadrian's Wall begins.
- Hadrian gives up the territories conquered in Scotland.
- Change of era name from Jianguang (2nd year) to Yanguang of the Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty.
- Emperor Hadrian averts a war with Parthia by a personal meeting with Osroes I.
- Housesteads Fort is constructed on Hadrian's Wall north of Bardon Mill.
- Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli is built.
- The Temple of Al-Lat in Palmyra is dedicated somewhere between this year and 164 AD.
- In China, Ban Yong, son of Ban Chao, reestablishes the Chinese control over the Tarim Basin.
- The Chinese government establishes Aide of the Western Regions over the Tarim Basin.
Arts and sciences
- Emperor Hadrian begins to rebuild the Olympeion in Athens.
- Antinous becomes Hadrian's beloved companion on his journeys through the Roman Empire.
- During a voyage to Greece, Hadrian is initiated in the ancient rites known as the Eleusinian Mysteries.
- In northern India, Nahapana, ruler of the Scythians, is defeated and dies in battle while fighting against King Gautamiputra Satakarni. This defeat destroys the Scythian dynasty of the Western Kshatrapas.
- The Pantheon is constructed in (Rome) as it stands today by Hadrian.
- Emperor Hadrian establishes the Panhellenion.
- Hadrian distributes imperial lands to small farmers.
- Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, Italy, starts to be built (approximate date).
- Plague sweeps North Africa in the wake of a locust invasion that destroys large areas of cropland. The plague kills as many as 500,000 in Numidia and possibly 150,000 on the coast before moving to Italy, where it takes so many lives that villages and towns are abandoned.
- Last (4th) year of the Yanguang era of the Chinese Han Dynasty.
- Change of emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty from Han Andi to Marquis of Beixiang, then to Han Shundi.
- Gautamiputra Satakarni, a king of the Andhra dynasty, destroys the kingdom of Maharashtra near Bombay. He now controls central India from coast to coast.
- Zhang Heng of Han Dynasty China invents a hydraulic-powered armillary sphere.
Arts and sciences
- The Satires of Juvenal intimate that bread and circuses (panem et circenses) keep the Roman people happy.
- The old Pantheon is demolished by Emperor Hadrian and the construction of a new one begins (its date is uncertain, because Hadrian choses not to inscribe the temple).
- First year of the Yongjian era of the Chinese Han Dynasty.
- Emperor Hadrian returns to Rome after a seven year voyage to the Roman provinces.
- Hadrian, acting on the advice of his proconsul of Asia, Gaius Minicius Fundanus, determines that Christians shall not be put to death without a trial.
- Emperor Hadrian visits the Roman province of North Africa, in order to inspect Legio III Augusta stationed at Lambaesis. For strategic reasons the legionnaires are located in the Aurès Mountains.
- Hadrian's Wall is completed in Britain. Built mostly of stone in the east and with a wooden palisade in the west. They construct at least 16 forts, about 15,000 legionaries digging ditches, quarrying rock and cutting stone, preventing idleness which led to unrest and rebellions in the ranks.
- Roman agriculture declines as imports from Egypt and North Africa depress wheat prices, making it unprofitable to farm and forcing many farmers off the land.
- Roman bakeries produce dozens of bread varieties, and the Romans distribute free bread for the poor.
- Hadrian begins his inspection of the provinces of Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt.
Arts and sciences
- The fossils of large prehistoric animals are discovered in Dalmatia.
- The Pantheon in Rome is finished.
- A defense for Numidia is constructed at Lambaesis by Legio III Augusta.
- Emperor Hadrian continues his voyages, now inspecting Caria, Cappadocia and Syria.
- February 8 – Vettius Valens, Greek astrologer (d. 175)
- Irenaeus, Greek bishop and apologist (approximate date)
- Lucian, Syrian rhetorician and satirist (approximate date)
- Tatian, Syrian Christian writer and theologian (d. 180)
- Apuleius, Numidian novelist, writer, public speaker (approximate date)
- Aulus Gellius, Roman author and grammarian (approximate date)
- Lucian, Syrian satirist and rhetorician (approximate date)
- Lucius Ferenius, Dutch potter in Heerlen (approximate date)
- Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus, Roman politician (d. 193)
- Chen Ji, Chinese official and chancellor (d. 199)
- Galen, Greek physician and anatomist (d. c. 200/216)
- Liu Hong, Chinese official and astronomer (d. 210)
- Ban Zhao, Chinese historian and philosopher (b. AD 49)
- Dio Chrysostom, Greek historian (approximate date)
- Faustinus and Jovita, Roman Christian martyrs
- Getulius, Roman officer and Christian martyr
- Hermes, Greek Christian martyr and saint
- Marcian of Tortona, Roman bishop (or 117)
- Matthias of Jerusalem, bishop of Jerusalem
- Nicomachus, Greek mathematician (b. AD 60)
- Plutarch, Greek philosopher (approximate date)
- Sextus Pedius, Roman jurist (b. AD 50)
- Cai Lun, Chinese inventor of paper and the papermaking process (b. AD 50)
- Deng Sui, Chinese empress of the Han Dynasty (b. AD 81)
- Eleutherius and Antia, Roman Christian martyrs and saints
- Marcus Annius Verus, father of Marcus Aurelius
- Nahapana, ruler of the Scythians (approximate date)
- Sixtus I, bishop of Rome (approximate date)
- April 30 – An of Han, Chinese emperor (b. AD 94)
- December 10 – Shao (or Liu Yi), Chinese emperor
- Servius Sulpicius Similis, Roman governor
- Thamel, Roman Christian priest and martyr
- Plutarch, Greek historian and biographer (b. AD 46)
- Publius Metilius Nepos, Roman politician (b. AD 45)
- "List of Rulers of Korea". www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
- Meijer, Fik (2004). Emperors Don't Die in Bed. Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-134-38405-1.
- Declercq, Dominik (1998). Writing Against the State: Political Rhetorics in Third and Fourth Century China. BRILL. p. 408. ISBN 9789004103764.
- Goodman, Howard L. (2010). Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-Century Ad China. BRILL. p. 39. ISBN 978-9004183377.
- "Cai Lun | Biography, Paper, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
- Peterson, Barbara Bennett (2016). Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century. Routledge. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-317-46372-6.
- Asma, Stephen T. (2009). On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears. Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780199745777.